Match report David Hinchliffe, photos Andy Wales
Round fifteen and the halfway point in the National 2 South season, saw The Raiders make their shortest away trip to Sutton & Epsom. In their first season of National League rugby, the Surrey side sat next to bottom in the table but with five changes to the team which had beaten Leicester Lions the previous week, The Raiders knew they could take nothing for granted.
Scott Barlow, Curtis Barnes, Jack Forrest, Kieran Leeming and Jon Whittall were all unavailable so Will Fowler joined the back row, Will Beer moved to the wing, Tom Gwyther and John Dawe formed the centre partnership and Tom Adams and Dan Peach joined the bench.
Sutton kicked off and The Raiders cleared the ball to touch. The home side won their lineout and kicked ahead, Harry Forrest was under the high ball and was taken out as he jumped. The home side’s winger received a yellow card for the dangerous challenge and Sutton were a man down one minute into the game. The visitors pressed hard to make their advantage count but a loose pass allowed Sutton to intercept and it was they who posted the first try, converted by Hurley, to establish an early lead. (7-0)
The Raiders again tried to take advantage of their numerical superiority and gained a scrum deep in the home side’s 22m. This time the long final pass reached the wing, where Harry Forrest gathered and crossed in the corner. McLean missed the difficult conversion but the gap close to two points. (7-5) A few minutes later the home side were penalised for not rolling away at a ruck and McLean slotted the kick for three more points. (7-8)
The lead was short lived, first Sutton built through phases until their fly-half spotted a gap and cut through Raiders’ defence to score near the posts. (12-8) The conversion was missed but an injured Gibson had to be replaced by Luke. Two minutes later Sutton intercepted the ball from a Worthing lineout and their flanker ran in under the posts for a converted try. (19-8) For the second week running The Raiders were looking at entering the break with a significant deficit but for the second week running they had other ideas. A promising attack was halted by a deliberate knock on, earning the Sutton wing a yellow card and the visitors a lineout deep in the home 22m. The catch and drive was executed perfectly and Elliott Luke grounded the ball for the third week running. McLean added the extras and The Raiders were back in the game at half time. (19-15)
Within two minutes of the re-start a McLean penalty closed the gap to one point. (19-18) Five minutes later McLean was converting his own try, scored off the back of patient work by the forwards sucking in the defence before releasing the ball to the backs. (19-25) With less than a score in the game, neither side could make the breakthrough and it was almost thirty minutes before the visitors appeared to have sewn up the game. With five minutes remaining Cook and Gatford replaced Birch and Litterick to bring some fresh legs to the fray. From an attacking scrum the forwards once again patiently built the phases but this time they kept the ball to themselves, Sam Cook grounded by the post to give McLean a simple conversion, although the scorer failed to register his points! (19-30 or 32!)
Just as in the previous game, the scoreboard showed The Raiders with an eleven-point lead and just as before they gifted their opponents a last minute try for a bonus point. The hurried conversion was missed and with only thirty seconds remaining Sutton failed to capitalise on a knock-on from the re-start. The referee signalled no advantage and blew for no side.
Full time score: Sutton & Epsom 24 Worthing Raiders 30
Not a great performance from The Raiders but another five points on the road. Thirty-one points from the last available thirty-five and eight wins in the first fifteen games sees them eighth in the table on forty-two points at the half-way point of the season. Next week they entertain bottom club Bournemouth at The Rugby Park but this will be no easy game as their opponents only narrowly lost away to Redruth this week. The pre-match lunch, the biggest in the club’s history, has been sold out for weeks but there will be plenty of other refreshment available and some great rugby to watch, be at The Rugby Park and cheer The Raiders on as they go for maximum points in December!
Referee: Tom Bird
Tries: Forrest H, Luke, McLean, Cook
Cons: McLean x 2
Pens: McLean x 2
1.Henry Birch 2. Jordan Gibson 3. Rhys Litterick 4. Jack Lee 5. Jack Lake 6. Ryan Maguire 7. Will Fowler 8. Liam Perkins – Captain 9. Callum Waters 10. Henry Anscombe 11. Will Beer 12. Tom Gwyther 13. John Dawe 14. Harry Forrest 15. Matt McLean
16. Elliott Luke 17. Grant Gatford 19. Sam Cook 20. Dan Peach 25. Tom Adams